Techweek Elevator: Olio City

Techweek Elevator is the elevator pitch as a two-minute read. We spotlight up-and-coming movers and shakers for investors and startup enthusiasts.

Olio City is revolutionizing the way we explore cities by marrying curated content and artificial intelligence (AI), allowing users to discover a city in one application, personalized to their interests.

Currently, the travel industry lacks personalization. Other industry players like Netflix and Pandora use a blend of human input and AI to recommend movies and music. Olio City is doing the same to enhance the way consumers plan travel and decide what to do in their own city.

Think about the way you currently go about planning a trip to a new city or figuring out your next stop after dinner with friends. How would you go about it? You’d first hit up your social channels asking your friends for recommendations. Next, you’d go to the usual foodie websites, read reviews, and perform Google searches. After all that searching, there’s still no guarantee you’re going to get good recommendations. That’s where Olio City comes in. Our team of cultural aficionados curate and maintain a database of the best local experiences a city has to offer. Our app includes events, restaurants, and attractions with tailored recommendations to each user’s interests, based on their unique likes and dislikes.

Our target market is Millennials and Generation X’ers. In January 2016, the average number of leisure trips taken by U.S. travelers in the past 12 months was 4.4. In particular, Millennials are driving travel spending by taking an average of 5 trips each year, and 60 percent of them say they’d rather spend money on experiences than material things. Moreover, 50 percent of Millennials use their smartphones to plan and book travel.

We are currently in Chicago and St. Louis and plan to expand to additional cities across the country, changing the way people discover cities. Our next expansion will involve a rollout of three more cities starting this fall.

In the past ten years, we’ve seen innovations in city exploration through the creation of consumer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, and more recently Airbnb, offering consumers an alternative way to experience a city. These innovations have undoubtedly enhanced the way we as consumers go about planning trips and how we explore a destination, but none of them allow for personalization. We are the only company that offers the quality of curated content that is similar to what one would find in hyper-local publications, then tailors it through artificial intelligence to provide recommendations that fit a user’s specific tastes and preferences.

Once you download Olio City and create an account, you complete a short quiz to reveal your taste and preferences, which serves as the base of your algorithm. The app then continues to learn through user likes and dislikes to tailor recommendations to their interests. The more you use Olio, the more it understands what you prefer.

Olio City monetizes through revenue sharing and advertising. We are currently beta-testing some of these features and will be rolling them out soon. Olio City supports local business owners through its app technology, allowing them to own their listing and, for a small fee, push specials, promotions, and events; however, no one can pay to be in Olio City. That’s a founding value and principle of our company. 
We plan to expand to 3 additional markets starting this fall. Our next stop is Nashville, TN with two other cities following shortly thereafter.

I founded Olio City in the fall of 2014. After conducting months of market research and mapping out the blueprint for the company, I enlisted CTO Chris DeGroat to help build and bring Olio City to life. After building our app we brought on Sabrina Mohammed-Paddock to lead our marketing efforts as we believe that building a great app is only half the battle. Our team has collectively worked for large corporations like, Major League Baseball, LVMH and various startups on the coasts and in the Midwest.

Our content team in both of our markets is comprised of in-the-know city experts. A large part of Olio City’s success is contingent upon the content team, so it is important that our writers are in-the-know experts. That’s why we draw upon writers from Thrillist and Eater here in Chicago to identify the best of the best, whether it’s a dive bar in Logan Square or the best place to see live music in Bronzeville.
Olio City launched on April 15th in St. Louis and July 1st in Chicago. We include the best in weekend events and over 250 local businesses in St. Louis and over 500 in Chicago. We take pride in featuring only local businesses, no national chains or fast food. We believe the key to an authentic city experience is through a local lens. Serving up the best of what’s around you, tailored to your interests, is a great place to start.

This article was contributed by Ellen Prinzi, Founder & CEO.

Learn more about Olio City here.

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